Land use - water power

Waterpower projects are intended to capture the energy of falling water to generate electricity. A turbine converts the kinetic energy of falling water into mechanical energy. Then a generator converts the mechanical energy from the turbine into electrical energy.

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Water is removed from a stream and transported through a pipe or penstock turning blades in a turbine to spin a generator to produce electricity. The water is returned to the stream via a tailrace. The electricity produced may be delivered to the provincial electrical grid or distribution system via a transmission/power line or sent to the facilities using a self generator.

Both the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development (FLNRORD) and the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation (EMLCI), are committed to working with industry and other key agencies to enable a coordinated approach to the development of waterpower projects. These projects seek to balance industry and broad provincial interests. FLNRORD and EMLCI are the provincial lead on alternative energy programs.

Land-use and operational policies of other agencies, including BC Hydro are also applicable where their legislation provides for jurisdictional responsibility.

Waterpower projects may be on Crown land, private land or a combination of Crown and private lands.

Projects that exceed 50 megawatts

FLNRORD is the lead agency for the regulatory review of Crown land waterpower project proposals below 50 megawatts (MW). The Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) will lead the review for projects that exceed 50MW.

Application documents

Waterpower projects require a water licence, and in most cases a Crown land tenure adjacent or appurtenant to the water being used. It is recommended that an application for a water licence be made prior to initiating the Crown land tenure application process; however both application processes will prompt for the other related application in the system. 

Components of the project that may be situated on Crown land and require a Crown land tenure include the following:

  • Powerhouse site
  • Penstock
  • Intake structures
  • Tailrace
  • Switchyards
  • Transmission lines
  • Roadways
  • Construction staging areas

The following documents should be reviewed prior to submitting your application:

The following documents should be completed prior to submitting your application:

The following documents must be completed prior to submitting your application:

The most common reason for delay is submission of an incomplete application, which is then returned to the applicant.

If your application is accepted, you will be notified if Advertising is required. Please wait for confirmation before advertising.

Who may apply?

To apply for a waterpower project Crown land tenure, you must be:

  • A Canadian citizen or permanent resident at least 19 years of age, or
  • A partnership or corporation registered in the province of B.C.

Type of tenure

Waterpower projects on Crown land are authorized by two types of Crown land tenure. At the initial or investigative stage an investigative licence is issued for up to 10 years to allow for site investigation and to obtain information required to complete the development plan for project initiation.

At the project initiation phase, a multi tenure instrument is applied for. It combines a number of previously available tenure rights under one tenure instrument. It's issued for the period that corresponds to the electricity purchase agreement period of up to 40+ years. If an electricity purchase agreement is not obtained then the term is limited to 10 years in most circumstances.

Fees and rents

You'll be required to pay an application fee, as outlined in the Crown land fees schedule (PDF, 49KB), as well as rental fees.

Rents are determined based on the type of rights being transferred and land values.

  • Rent for an investigative licence is $500 per year
  • Rent for rights associated with a multi tenure instrument are broken out by use - licence of occupation rights are calculated at 7.5% of land value, a lease is 8%. For uses that are similar in nature to utilities, rent is 7.5% or 8% of zone land value based on different rights being issued

When considering clean energy power production review the information on the Water Application Fees and Rental Rates page.